The dwindling role of population pressure in land use change - A case from the South West pacific

Activity: Talk or presentation typesLecture and oral contribution

Torben Birch-Thomsen - Lecturer

Theoretical lines of thought concerning pertinent aspects of agricultural land use change in ‘coupled human–environmental systems’ must go well beyond how much food is produced and how the environment is affected, among others because land use practices are closely linked to societal institutions and the population. Malthus and Boserup have provided two framing concepts that have been widely used to analyze how and why agricultural change and land use intensification occur. The models are certainly contestable simplifications but they have nevertheless been a valuable starting point from which to discuss the complexity of agricultural change and land use trajectories. A number of classical studies have documented that Boserup’s model fits fairly well for land use systems that rely on land and labour extensive methods when land is abundant. More recent literature emphasizes, on the other hand, a number of economic, social or political factors that shape land use change beyond what is implicitly assumed in Boserup’s simple model. Based on such theoretical mindsets, the paper will analyse the directions of change in the land use system of Bellona, a small outer island in the Solomon Islands. Coupled human–environmental timelines are used to explore the temporal coevolution of driving forces and adaptive strategies from the 1960s to 2006. The human-environmental interaction that shapes land use patterns and practices, specifically concerning intensification of agricultural systems in the humid tropics, will be in focus. Furthermore, climatic events and agro-environmental conditions are assessed in conjunction with issues such as population dynamics, agricultural strategies, non-agricultural activities, transport and infrastructure, migration, education, political conditions, etc. Aerial photography from 1966 and satellite imagery from 2006 supplemented by studies from the 1960s and a contemporary household survey reveal only minor changes in the agricultural system regardless of a population increase of 51% since 1966. Hence, land use strategies have developed to become partially disconnected from the local population pressure and therefore remain relatively stable, while the larger livelihood portfolio has undergone significant diversification. Hence, the agricultural activities have become only a supplement to a wider range of strategies supporting the increasing number of people on the island. This explains why land use patterns continue relatively unchanged while livelihood and food supply strategies have changed. The situation in Bellona is one in which diverse livelihood opportunities, rather than population pressure is the main driving force of development and change.
16 Nov 2010

Event (Conference)

Title<strong>Ester Boserup Conference 2010 - a centennial tribute</strong>Long-term trajectories in population, gender relations, land use, and the environment

ID: 23319506